Having sympathy and empathy for woeful teams doesn't get your own ball rolling, so St. Louis shifted into fifth gear from the get-go and motored on to its third straight win.
Led by Kyle Lohse on the mound, the Cardinals ran roughshod over the Mets, 7-1. After a poor start last week, Lohse returned to form and threw seven strong innings, giving up one unearned run while striking out four.
"It feels good; I feel like I've been on a roll," Lohse said. "It was good to bounce back tonight and get back on track."
Now at 10-2 on the season, Lohse is tied for the fourth-most wins in baseball. He has already surpassed his victory total from last year and is only four short of his career high.
Pitching as well as other teams' aces, Lohse has led a starting rotation that currently leads the Majors in winning percentage (.678). Through 84 games, Lohse has cemented himself as the Cardinals' first-half ace and should garner All-Star consideration on Sunday, when the teams for the Midsummer Classic are announced.
"I think he deserves as much consideration as anyone else out there," manager Tony La Russa said. "Everything he has done is legitimate."
Crediting pitching coach Dave Duncan to his success this year, Lohse said he feels like a different pitcher on the mound.
Then again, it doesn't hurt when the team jumps out to a quick lead and builds on it. The Cardinals scored runs in the first five innings on Monday night, attacking John Maine early and giving Lohse the opportunity to use his full arsenal against the hapless Mets.
"That's a tough team over there," Lohse said. "I know their record isn't all that they expect. Anytime you get on a pitcher like Maine early, it gives you a little breathing room and you can go out there and try to make them be more aggressive and use all of your stuff."
The Cardinals put their first four batters on base in the opening inning and struck while the iron was hot. With Aaron Miles on first base and Skip Schumaker at second, Albert Pujols singled to drive home Schumaker. Miles later scored on a double play.
|"We go about it right. I keep wearing you out with this, but it's what I see every day. Sometimes we don't do it right, but we go about it right."|
-- Cardinals manager|
Tony La Russa
With Yadier Molina standing on second base in the second inning, Schumaker harmlessly grounded to Luis Castillo. But Castillo gave the fans flashes of Bill Buckner, letting the ground ball go right through his wickets and allowing Molina to score easily.
After the Cards extended their lead to 4-0 in the third, Miles hit a ground ball down the line to third base. David Wright made an off-balanced throw to first with his momentum carrying him into foul territory, but the ball sailed over Carlos Delgado's head and allowed Miles to reach second base.
Pujols singled Miles home in the next at-bat.
Maine was removed for a pinch-hitter after the fourth inning, and the Cardinals pounced on reliever Carlos Muniz. Chris Duncan hit a two-run homer off Muniz, his first long ball since May 16. The ball barely carried past the right-field wall.
"I was hoping it would go out -- it was a close one," Duncan said. "It's a good thing it went over, and it felt good."
Mark Mulder, who had not appeared in a game since Sept. 16, 2007, came out of the bullpen to pitch the ninth and escaped unharmed. Mulder, who has endured problems to his rotator cuff on his throwing arm over the past two years, brought the crowd to a standing ovation with his appearance.
"It was awesome," Lohse said. "I was here cheering him on and he looked good, real good."
Despite the toll from all the injuries the Cardinals have endured and despite nobody giving them a chance at the beginning of the year, they have quietly defied everyone who said, "They can't."
At 48 wins, two short of becoming the eighth Cardinals team to have 50 at the All-Star break, La Russa's club is doing what everyone said they couldn't three months ago -- win.
"We go about it right," La Russa said. "I keep wearing you out with this, but it's what I see every day. Sometimes we don't do it right, but we go about it right."
Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.